DI Frank Kavanagh and his colleague and lover DC Jane Salt catch a missing-person case.
Author Tom Oliver has disappeared after tutoring at a Shropshire writer’s center. Also gone from the house is a bronze statue of stricken playwright Richard Osman, whose sculptor wife set up the center to torture him. Although Oliver was neither a very successful writer nor a very pleasant person, nothing stands out as a reason for his vanishing act. His past is strewn with discarded lovers, however, and he’s often been jealous of and spiteful toward talented writers he happened to come across during his many years in workshops. Kavanagh and Salt soon focus on his latest lover, who may have a jealous husband. They also look closely into the beating of a poet’s husband, which caused her to withdraw from the workshop, where she was replaced by another poet who’d had problems with Oliver in the past. The case heats up, at least relatively speaking, when Mrs. Osman is found dead of natural causes on the grounds. Undaunted, Kavanagh drains a lake and calls out the dogs in an effort to discover the missing man.
Though Armstrong’s police procedurals (A Kind of Acquaintance, 2008, etc.) contain all the basics of the genre, this one lacks mystery and tension as it meanders to its underwhelming conclusion.